In North Carolina it is difficult to find a precinct that willingly oscillates between the two major parties. Of the thousands of precincts that exist in the state, there are only a handful where voters tend not to primarily vote straight ticket for either party. Swing precincts can act like weather vanes in an election, showing which candidates resonate with voters and which do not. One recurring example is some of the precincts listed below voted for the majority of Republican candidates but voted against Republican Andrew Heath in the 2018 Court of Appeals race. This points to the possibility that incumbents carry great weight in swing precincts as Heath was challenging a sitting judge and often when a precinct split the ticket, voting against Heath in one race and for a Republican in another, incumbency was the common denominator.
Another trend we discovered is for swing precincts to contain small towns with large African American communities. This was the case with Franklinton, Green Level, and Fair Bluff, all of which are in swing precincts. Perhaps the largest swing town we found was Shelby which has a population of about 20,000 people and in which every precinct voted Republican for congress in 2018 and Democratic for judge in that same year.
When reached for comment on the nature of the four swing precincts in their county the Cleveland County Democratic Party responded that it was, “Probably a function of Congressman McHenry’s incumbency. There was no special push for the court of appeals- more Dems reliably voting blue live in these precincts.”
We located five counties with at least four swing precincts, Columbus, Cleveland, Mecklenburg, and Robeson. In most counties, if they had any swing precincts at all, it tended to be one or two. In the case of Mecklenburg they have so many precincts that it is not surprising for more than four of them to swing, but in the cases of Cleveland and Columbus four swing precincts is a fairly dramatic number and shows that for now those two counties are more fluid than most others in North Carolina.
Below are the precincts that The Cycle was able to identify. If your county is not listed below then we were unable to locate any swing precincts there.
Located within the swing State House district currently held by Republican Rep. Stephen Ross and centered northeast of Burlington this precinct covers the area around the town of Green Level, a town with an African American majority, and voted for Republicans Donald Trump, Richard Burr, and Mark Walker in 2016 but that same year it went to Democrat Roy Cooper by 101 votes. In 2018 it went Democratic in the congressional race by a vote of 899 to 786.
Situated north of Leland gave 1,565 votes to Republican Andrew Heath in the 2018 Court of Appeals race while giving 1,506 votes to Democrat John Arrowood. That same year Republican congressman David Rouzer received 1,544 votes to Kyle Horton’s 1,527.
This precinct includes Leasburg on its eastern edge and some rural portions of the county. Perhaps of interest to the politically inclined, Leasburg was once home to Jacob Thompson, who served as Secretary of the Interior under President James Buchanan. This precinct voted for Congressman Mark Walker in 2018, giving him 196 votes against Democrat Ryan Watts 161. That same year the precinct gave 177 votes to Democrat John Arrowood in the Court of Appeals race while only giving 176 to Republican Andrew Heath.
Located in the northwestern portion of Hickory, in 2018 this precinct gave 540 votes to Republican congressman Patrick McHenry while giving 453 votes to his Democratic opponent David Wilson Brown. In that same election Democrat Ric Vandett carried that precinct with 510 votes to Republican Andy Wells 485 in the NC Senate District 42.
Precincts Lawndale, S4A, SC, and SS
These four precincts are grouped together because they all flipped against the same candidate, Republican Andrew Heath. These precincts were all won by Republican congressman Patrick McHenry and lost by Heath in 2018. These precincts encompass all of Shelby and Lawndale.
This is only of the more volatile counties in the state as there are a number of precincts that have shown a willingness to flip. A total of four out of the 26 precincts in this county voting for both Republicans and Democrats in 2018.
Home to Riegelwood and Delco as well as a paper mill, this precinct gave 929 votes to Democrat John Arrowood in the 2018 Court of Appeals race while Andrew Heath, his Republican opponent, received 861 votes. NC Sen. Danny Britt, who performed the best out of Columbus County Republican candidates in 2018, received 923 votes against John Campbell’s 898. Republican congressman David Rouzer lost this precinct, receiving 876 votes against Kyle Horton’s 927.
Located in the far western portion of Columbus County, this precinct encompasses the southern end of Fair Bluff, a town that has an African American majority. This precinct gave 324 votes to Republican Danny Britt in the NC Senate 13 race while only giving 263 to his Democratic opponent John Campbell. That same year the precinct gave 285 votes to Republican congressman David Rouzer while giving 294 to his opponent Kyle Horton. Republican Andrew Heath, who tended to do poorly in these swing precincts, received 260 votes against his Democratic opponent’s 309.
Home to Chadbourn, a town with a population of just under 2,000 residents with a slight African American majority, the town showed signs of population decline between the years 2000 and 2010. This precinct voted for Rouzer in the congressional race, giving him 765 votes against Kyle Horton’s 739. Heath lost this precinct, receiving 663 against Arrowood’s 799.
Consisting of the northern portion of Whiteville this precinct went for Democrat John Arrowood in the Court of Appeals race, giving him 653 votes against Heath’s 617. Republican David Rouzer won this seat with 664 votes against Kyle Horton’s 637. As is the trend in Columbus County, the largest Republican victory in this precinct went to Sen. Danny Britt who received 751 votes to Campbell’s 549.
Located in the two of Craven County’s boot shape this precinct voted for Democrat Ginger Garner in the NC Senate 02 race in 2018, giving her 767 votes to Norman Sanderson’s 764. It also went Democratic in NC House 03 in which it gave 777 to Barbara Lee and 766 to Republican Michael Speciale. Andrew Heath performed the best among Republicans in this precinct, taking 779 to Arrowood’s 768.
Positioned on the southeast side of Lexington, near Arbor Acres, this precinct gives only the narrowest victories to either party. In NC Senate 29 this precinct gave 507 votes to Democrat Cheraton Love, and 506 to Republican Eddie Gallimore. In the congressional election they gave Republican Ted Budd a victory with 508 votes to Democrat Kathy Manning’s 484 but it should be noted that the Libertarian and Green parties had candidates in that race that took a total of 33 votes in precinct 40.
Including parts of Franklinton and the rural regions to the west of the town this precinct swings on razor-thin margins. It also defies the trend of swing precincts having favored Arrowood over Heath in the Court of Appeals race. Precinct 3 gave 949 votes to Heath and 948 votes to Arrowood. It matches other swing precincts in that it contains a small town with a sizable African American population. In this case, Franklinton has an African American population of 40%. In the NC Senate 18 race, this precinct favored Democrat Mack Paul by a vote of 942 to 937.
Located in the southeast portion of Gastonia this precinct followed many swing precincts in favoring Democrat John Arrowood over Republican Andrew Heath in the 2018 Court of Appeals race, with Arrowood receiving 715 to Heath’s 687. In the congressional race they gave Republican incumbent Patrick McHenry 735 to Democrat David Wilson Brown’s 694. Both of these results are consistent with trends that show swing precincts favoring incumbents.
Containing McLeansville, an unincorporated community of roughly 1,000 people, this precinct gave Republican Mark Walker 893 votes in the 2018 congressional election. His opponent, Ryan Watts, received 876. But then, in compliance with the theme of swing precincts favoring incumbents, they gave 899 votes to Democrat John Arrowood in the Court of Appeals race while giving 840 to Republican Andrew Heath.
Containing the unincorporated communities of Monticello and Brown Summit this precinct gave 713 votes to incumbent Democrat Arrowood while giving 700 to his Republican opponent Heath. This precinct also gave 722 to incumbent Republican Mark Walker while giving his opponent 709.
Located to the east of Waynesville this precinct voted for Democrat Bobby Kuppers in NC Senate 50 in 2018, giving him 468 votes to Republican incumbent Jim Davis’ 455. That same year they voted for Republican Mark Meadows, giving him 477 votes to Phillip Price’s 434.
Situated on the northwest corner of Statesville this precinct voted for Democrat Kathy Manning for Congress in 2018, giving her 833 votes against incumbent Republican Ted Budd’s 751 votes. The precinct also voted for Republican Vickie Sawyer in NC Senate 34, giving her 826 votes against Democrat Beniah McMiller’s 807.
Precincts QUA, SCC, CFK, RIV
Forming a half-circle around the eastern side of Sylva these four precincts encompass Qualla and the Cherokee Reservation in the north and Tuckasegee in the south. SCC, CFK, and RIV all three voted for Heath in the 2018 Court of Appeals race while Qualla voted for his Democratic opponent. All four precincts voted for Republican Mark Meadows in the congressional race and all of them voted for Democrat Joe Sam Queen in NC House 119.
This precinct contains the unincorporated area of Woods View and in 2018’s NC House 12 race they voted for Republican Chris Humphrey, giving him 553 votes to Democrat George Graham’s 524. This result actually runs contrary to trends we have seen in other swing precincts in that they actually favored the challenger, Humphrey, over the incumbent. In the NC Senate race that same year they went for Democrat David Brantley, giving him 545 votes to Republican Louis Milford Pate’s 525.
Precincts HOT SP, SPRING, and MARS H
HOT SP and SPRING run along the western border of the county and contain Hot Springs in the north and the unincorporated areas of Trust and Luck to the south. MARS H contains the college town of Mars Hill and is located on the southeastern side of the county. In the 2018 NC Senate 47 race all three precincts voted for Democrat David Wheeler, siding against incumbent Ralph Hise. That same year all three of them voted for Republican Mark Meadows in the congressional race.
Northern Precincts 143 and 202
Located between the towns of Huntersville and Davidson these two precincts both voted Republican in the 2018 Court of Appeals race and Democratic in that year’s 12th district congressional race.
Southern Precincts 91, 113, 121, 137, 008, 18, 32, 48, 71
Located around southern Charlotte and the town of Matthews these precincts all voted Republican in the 2018 Court of Appeals race and Democratic in the 9th district congressional race.
Containing the town of Candor, which has a Hispanic population of roughly 27%, this precinct voted for Republicans Andrew Heath and Richard Hudson in the Court of Appeals and congressional races but in NC House 66 they sided with incumbent Democrat Ken Goodman, giving him 374 against Joey Davis’ 356. Davis is running again in 2020 and faces a primary challenge from Richmond County Commissioner Ben Moss.
Precinct BM 08
Situated on the eastern side of Jacksonville this precinct voted for Republican incumbent Harry Brown, providing him with 1,439 votes to Democrat Joe Webb’s 1,358. In that same election the precinct went to incumbent Democrat John Arrowood in the Court of Appeals race with 1,387 going to him while 1,383 went to his Republican opponent. This is in keeping with the sway that we have found incumbency to hold in swing precincts.
Containing Yamacraw, the birthplace of fictional character Philip Banks from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, this precinct also contains the unincorporated communities of Currie and Montague. In 2018 it went to incumbent Republican David Rouzer in the congressional race by a margin of 347 to 343 and to Democrat John Johnson in NC House 16 by a margin of 358 to 341.
Located east of Roxboro and containing the unincorporated community of Allensville this precinct voted for incumbent Democrat John Arrowood in the 2018 Court of Appeals race by a margin of 560 to Heath’s 549. That same year they voted for incumbent Republican Mark Walker in the congressional race, giving him 569 to Democrat Ryan Watts’ 555.
This is a unique case in which there are too many swing precincts to name. Most of the western precincts voted Democratic in the 2018 congressional election, Republican in the NC Senate race that year and then, in a 2019 special election, voted Republican in the congressional race.
Situated south of Reidsville this precinct gave 1,206 votes to Democrat Michael Lee in 2018 against the 1,196 received by Republican Jerry Carter. That same year they gave Mark Walker 1,397 against Ryan Watts’ 1,181. This is actually a bigger swing than we normally see in swing precincts.
Located between Indian Trail and Wesley Chapel this precinct went Democratic in 2018 in every race from congressional to county commissioner for the first time in years. This may have been in part the result of efforts by Democratic county commissioner candidate Steven Davis who was also the Democratic chair for that precinct and put a lot of energy into a get out the vote effort there.